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The Used Car Road Show

The prospect of a 4½ hour drive when I was already tired wasn’t an option so instead it was a last minute Travel Lodge booking. And if this sounds like I’m moaning, I’m not.

Compared with a normal job I consider myself very lucky, for example yesterday alone I rubbed shoulders with a Porsche 968, a beautifully original Ferrari Daytona and spent 14 hours in the company of a studio full of like minded petrol heads.

There wasn’t a new car in sight, but I and the audience didn’t care because the beauty of used cars is that whether you have £500 or £50,000 you can still flick through the classifieds and find a car that will match your pocket. It’s also a bit of a buzz when you realise that cars that used to cost a lot almost certainly end up costing very little.

For example I remember when the Volvo 480 first came out, it was 1987, and at the time its front wheel drive, fuel injected engine and ‘pop up headlights’ seemed like a technical Tour de Force. At nearly £11,000 it cost more than my annual salary, today you’ll see plenty in the bargain buys section of your local rag trying to find a loving home for just a few hundred quid.

Of course my ever patient wife knows my addiction and smiles despairingly as I loudly read out the adverts over the breakfast table. She also knows that, given the chance, our driveway, garages and front lawn would be filled with a disparate selection of just such ‘future classics’. And I think I’m winning her over, she started off hating my 1987 Audi Coupe that I bought on a whim for £450, but after two years and my resolute refusal to get rid of it she’s starting to accept that it might be a permanent part of the family.

But my love of used cars is not unique. Every year we Brits buy around 7 million of them and during our motoring life time we will, on average, get through about 15 of them. Which is why I always found it a bit weird that when you turn on the telly or pick up a magazine if they are talking about cars they will, for the vast majority of the time only be talking about new ones. Imagine if the same logic was applied to property programmes, the lovely Sarah Beeny could only restore show homes and Phil and Kirsty would be forced to recommend new Wimpy and Barrett developments, regardless of what the punter really wanted.

Which is maybe why The Used Car Roadshow has become something of a hit with its viewers, we aren’t just about BHP or 0-60’s its all about real cars for real people. Of course we still like the exotic stuff, but that Ferrari Daytona I mentioned earlier was on the show, not because of how fast it was, but because of the story behind it. Back when it was new, in 1974 it would have cost £10,000, about the price of a three bedroom house, so it wasn’t cheap. But when the classic car boom of the late 1980’s was in full swing they started to change hands for upwards of £200,000. Quite an investment I think you’ll agree. But it all turned sour and recession hit prices tumbled to around the £50,000 mark by 1995. A little over a decade on and the cars started to creep back up in value, you’ll need £110,000 to buy a nice one today.

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